Aaron Chichioco is the managing editor of designdoxa.com. He loves to write about online marketing, ecommerce, and web design. He has a vast experience in overseeing daily operations of several online businesses since 2011.
11 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
All brands want to catch the attention of potential customers. So you try to think of something witty to tweet, post an enticing photo, come up with a catchy logo, and find the right brand aesthetic. While all of these efforts are excellent ways to build a brand and capture your audience’s interest, you are going to need something else to engage them. Specifically, you need a memorable brand story to tell.
Brand storytelling is the use of narratives to better engage and connect with customers and one of the best ways to build a memorable brand. Just like all other good narratives, your brand story should have a solid setting, a conflict, gripping action, and climax.
More importantly, it should have a main character or characters that your audience can truly relate to. You read that right. It may be your brand story, but the hero of your story should not be your product but the customer — it should emphasize how your brand value is the same as theirs.
When done properly, brand storytelling can work wonders for you. But it’s not enough to just have a good story to tell. You also need to have an effective method of delivering it.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, coming at a time when there are no live sports to enjoy – “The Last Dance” was a prime example of excellent storytelling. It catered to basketball fans of multiple generations and was so well made that even non-hoop heads tuned in to the Netflix special for five straight Sundays. The director was able to concoct a mix of nostalgia (for older fans), a glimpse into the legend (for younger fans), and enough exclusive footage and interviews for everyone else to enjoy.
Some say Michael Jordan finally allowed the 10-part documentary to be released just as the murmurs of LeBron James being the greatest basketball player ever were gaining traction. If that were the case, it was a brilliant move as “The Last Dance” put a stop to all that – at least for the time being.
Storytelling indeed has an important role to play in your marketing efforts. As you would craftily tell stories to make a business pitch land, you can use storytelling to introduce or reintroduce your brand, as Jordan did, to your target audience in the way that you want to be perceived.
Here are five reasons storytelling is important when you’re marketing a brand.
Who needs virtual reality technology when you have an imaginative mind? Stories are like fuel to your brain in the sense that they effectively activate parts of your brain that influence your perception of what you see or hear and helps provide your personal insight on things. Come up with a story that will stick on your audience’s mind and their brains will do the rest of the job.
Brands are often viewed by customers as just that – brands that sell products. Now, you want to break that image and set yourself apart from your competition. Storytelling gives you the perfect opportunity – a platform that allows your brand’s personality to take the center stage. It’s the perfect way to give your customers a peek of what your brand is really all about.
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Consumers are tired of aggressive advertising and those hard-selling tactics are not as effective at holding people’s attention as they once were. What works really well when it comes to customer engagement is storytelling. Of course, your story needs to be good to catch your audience’s attention in the first place. As mentioned above, your brand story needs to touch your audience and spark their emotions.
Neuro-associations are what links your thoughts with your feelings inside your brain. They shape the way you think, how you react emotionally, and how you behave in certain situations. Stories help you become vulnerable and trigger neuro-associations so you better connect with brands and products.
No matter what your current strategy is for your social media marketing, you can incorporate storytelling to improve it. Social media channels are a great place for you to create a buzz around your brand with shareable stories. You can also approach brand storytelling on social media by making use of user-generated content.
For instance, you can ask your audience to share their stories (that are related to your brand, of course) and offer prizes for the best ones! You can also get your audience engaged by posting in installments.
While there are lots of brand stories out there, only a few have made a mark and have become a classic. Here are some of them:
Zendesk’s “anti-storytelling” marketing campaign was both hilarious and witty. It was so good and so effective in turning their brand into one of the most likable ones that people do trust.
Coca-cola’s classic Santa ads are a perfect example of brand storytelling that can be so strong, the audience couldn’t help but respond to it. For instance, after the brand’s ‘Give and take, say I’ campaign, kids really started leaving Cokes outside of their homes for Santa. Their Santa character has been so popular that even just their Santa’s face would instantly bring their stories to memory.
One of the most powerful brand storytelling to date, Dove was able to not only boost their sales but redefine the way brands market themselves. How the FBI forensic artist created two portraits to bring to light every woman’s view of herself versus how other people see her is something that all women can relate to. With the message “You are more beautiful than you think.”, Dove really nailed this one.
What you want for your brand is the quality of storytelling that brands like Coca-Cola, Dove, and Nike, among others, have been so successful with. These companies have mastered the art of brand storytelling by making use of real-life stories along with concepts like overcoming adversities, inclusivity, body-positivity, small progress, and more.
They also know that to make a story stick, you need at least one character who the audience can root for or see themselves in. One who hasn’t reached his or her goals yet, perhaps an underdog who is struggling but persevering to get there.
The true magic of storytelling is that it takes you on a journey, makes you feel like you are a part of it, and that the brand is in fact telling your story. By the time an effective brand narrative reaches its conclusion, you as a viewer could say that the character is you or that it could be you. And then just like that, subconsciously, you develop a certain attachment and sense of loyalty to the brand that understands and tells the world your story.
Of course, just as the platform shifted from traditional media into the digital space, to truly enable your stories to make their mark, you need to keep pace with the innovations that are continually being birthed. Below are some of the emerging trends and platforms you can utilize for your brand stories.
Since 92% of people trust their peers more than they do traditional ads, giving your customers a chance to tell the world their stories make sense. This will help you increase engagement and build trust, among others.
Animated stories have always held a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it comes from our love of cartoons during childhood. As adults, consumers still perceive animated stories as entertainment and not an advertisement, so they work without the audience even knowing they work.
Virtual reality is now more common than it used to be and presents an opportunity for hyperreal storytelling. Stories that allow you to be a “part” of it instead of just a mere viewer can be more effective as it appeals to more of your senses.
As doing live videos has been a big thing on social media, brand storytelling via a live broadcast through Facebook Live or Instagram Live has been quite popular, too. It’s a great way to tell your story to your audience and have the opportunity to interact with them at the same time.
According to Edison Research, 54% of consumers are more likely to support a brand they have heard of during podcasts. It’s understandable that more brands now either create podcasts of their own or at least sponsor story-based podcasts.
The brands mentioned earlier didn’t only build their company through the quality of their products and an interesting story to tie up with it. They also implemented a number of key principles to ensure that they have the infrastructure for the story to truly resonate with the audience.
You have a great story and you know you want to tell it to the world. Pause for a moment, though, and ask yourself “Who would read or watch this story? Who is my audience?” Once you have identified your target audience, you may have to make tweaks to your execution to better connect with them. Speak the way they speak and meet them where they are at and you’ll have more success.
People’s attention spans are incredibly short so you have to make sure that the very first few seconds of your story will be more than enough to captivate your audience. There’s no need for a long preface and no need to establish the premise. Start with a bang!
You know how you do your best to come up with a catchy email subject so people will open the email and check out your message? The same principle should apply to your storytelling otherwise you’ll lose the interest of your audience right from the beginning.
One of the reasons stories work so well is that they not only catch the interest of the audience but stir their emotions as well. This is how you’ll get consumers to care about your brand. Before you start dreaming up ways to make your story sappy, keep in mind that there are so many emotions that you can evoke.
While people do love some weepy brand stories, you can make one fall in love, feel frustrated, get nostalgic, hopeful, sympathetic, and more, with your stories. Don’t forget that it’s human emotion that creates a solid connection between brands and consumers and that will urge them to take action.
As much as you want to focus the spotlight on your products, you’d do well to cast your brand in a supporting role. While the goal may be to boost your sales, you don’t have to be obvious about it, right?
Any brand building guide will tell you that there are right places for pushing a sale, but the heart of your branding is the values you believe in so make that the focus of your story. It’s important to note, though, that a brand story follows a similar path to that of the customer journey. Your story is the hook that lures potential customers in and creates brand awareness. And as your story arcs, that’s when it can become more sales-oriented further down the path your audience goes.
Lastly, don’t make the mistake of overcomplicating your story. What you need is a topic that matters to your audience and an approach to your narrative in the simplest way possible.
Trying to cram too many sub-ideas in one storyline can only lead to confusion or you might even fail to get your message across entirely. So just focus on what matters most and aim for crystal clear storytelling. You can always develop separate branding campaigns around subsets of your business later on.
You are already getting social media marketing and SEO services, so why not add brand storytelling to your marketing efforts? Brand storytelling has always been a part of marketing and will always be.
Yes, it is important to know your numbers and you do want to share those stats with your audience, but you’ve got to find a way to do that creatively. That’s why you need storytelling. It’s a great way to celebrate your brand’s identity and values, build loyalty, and make your brand more human.
So what’s your brand story?